A few years back, Paul E. Nothing is more important to the future of the United States and the world than the breadth and effectiveness of education, especially of higher education. I say especially higher education, but not because pre- school, elementary, and secondary education are less important.
Success at every level of education obviously depends on what has gone before. But for better or worse, the quality of postsecondary education and research affects the quality and effectiveness of education at every level. In the last few years, conversations have been growing like gathering storm clouds about the ways in which our universities are failing. There is talk about the poor educational outcomes apparent in our graduates, the out-of-control tuitions and crippling student loan debt.
Attention is finally being paid to the enormous salaries for presidents and sports coaches, and the migrant worker status of the low-wage majority faculty.
To explain my perspective here, I need to go back in time.
It was during this time, too, when colleges had a thriving professoriate, and when students were given access to a variety of subject areas, and the possibility of broad learning.
The Liberal Arts stood at the center of a college education, and students were exposed to philosophy, anthropology, literature, history, sociology, world religions, foreign languages and cultures. Of course, something else happened, beginning in the late fifties into the sixties — the uprisings and growing numbers of citizens taking part in popular dissent — against the Vietnam War, against racism, against destruction of the environment in a growing corporatized culture, against misogyny, against homophobia.
Where did much of that revolt incubate? Where did large numbers of well-educated, intellectual, and vocal people congregate? The corporations, the war-mongers, those in our society who would keep us divided based on our race, our gender, our sexual orientation.
I suspect that, given the opportunity, those groups would have liked nothing more than to shut down the universities. That would reveal something about that country which would not support the image they are determined to portray — that of a country of freedom, justice, opportunity for all.
So, how do you kill the universities of the country without showing your hand? But instead of doing anything so obvious as throwing them into prison, here those same people are thrown into dire poverty. The outcome is the same. Desperate poverty controls and ultimately breaks people as effectively as prison…. One, by increased lobbying and pressure on legislators to change their priorities.
Yet starting in the early s, shifting state priorities forced public universities to increasingly rely on other sources The atlantic why college students need a class in dating rut revenue.
But why this shift in priorities? Berkeley English professor, Christopher Newfield, in his new book Unmaking the Public University posits that conservative elites have worked to de-fund higher education explicitly because of its function in creating a more empowered, democratic, and multiracial middle class. His theory is one that blames explicit cultural concern, not financial woes, for the current decreases in funding. He cites the fact that California public universities were forced to rejectapplicants because of lack of funding.
Newfield explains that much of the motive behind conservative advocacy for de-funding of public education is racial, pro-corporate, and anti-protest in nature. While it is impossible to know the extent to which this memo influenced the conservative political strategy over the coming decades, it is extraordinary to see how far the principles outlined in his memo have been adopted.
This funding argument also was used to re-shape the kind of course offerings and curriculum focus found on campuses. Joe Biden, a few months back, said that the reason tuitions are out of control is because of the high price of college faculty.
At latest count, we have 1. One million professors in America are hired on short-term contracts, most often for one semester at a time, with no job security whatsoever — which means that they have no idea how much work they will have in any given semester, and that they are often completely unemployed over summer months when work is nearly impossible to find and many of the unemployed adjuncts do not qualify for unemployment payments.
Keep in mind, too, that many of the more recent Ph. Ds have entered this field often with the burden of six figure student loan debt on their backs. The article says that, in just the few short years since our economic collapse, the medical problems of this group have increased exponentially. It can destroy you — breaking down your physical and emotional health.
How many other professions report salaries that have remained at levels? This is how you break evil, wicked, leftist academic class in America — you turn them into low-wage members of the precariat — that growing number of American workers whose employment is consistently precarious.
All around the country, our undergraduates are being taught by faculty living at or near the poverty line, who have little to no say in the way classes are being taught, the number of students in a class, or how curriculum is being designed.
They often have no offices in which to meet their students, no professional staff support, no professional development support. One million of our college professors are struggling to continue offering the best they can in the face of this wasteland of deteriorated professional support, while living the very worst kind of economic insecurity.
Unlike those communist countries, which sometimes executed their intellectuals, here we are being killed off by lack of healthcare, by stress-related illness like heart-attacks or strokes. If you are not old enough — let me tell you that Once Upon a Time, doctors ran hospitals, doctors made decisions on what treatment their patients needed. In the s, during the infamous Nixon Administration, HMOs were an idea sold to the American public, said to help reign in medical costs.
You see the state of healthcare in this country, and how disastrous it is. From the s until today, as the number of full-time faculty jobs continued to shrink, the number of full-time administrative jobs began to explode. As faculty was deprofessionalized and casualized, reduced to teaching as migrant contract workers, administrative jobs now offered good, solid salaries, benefits, offices, prestige and power.